EBBW Vale captain Ashley Sweet knows that their season opener against Newport is a Premiership litmus test after a perfect summer.

The Steelmen entertain their old rivals at Eugene Cross Park (kick-off 5.30pm) after a trio of warm-up wins against Blaenavon, Brixham and Bury St Edmunds .

The successes were all a little one-sided but it promises to be a keener contest when the Black and Ambers head north this weekend.

The Premiership was launched at champions Merthyr on Wednesday and it is likely that the Ironmen will battle with Cardiff for the title.

The rest start with the prime focus of avoiding a scrap at the bottom with one club facing automatic relegation to the Championship.

Ebbw have had a summer of change as they look to trim their wage bill with fly-half Rhys Jones heading for Merthyr and captain Ronny Kynes dropping down a rung with Bargoed.

There are still plenty of familiar faces, with lock Sweet keen to see how his new teammates step up to league rugby as Steelmen.

"It's been a tough pre-season, the boys have worked hard and we can't wait to jump into it now," said the second row forward.

"We are here to compete hard, we are a proud club and this weekend is a big test to see exactly where we are at.

"We only have derbies with Newport this season, so this is Test week and the boys have been firing. We are looking forward to this and our training sessions have gone up a few notches.

"Everybody can't wait to get started and this is a chance to set the tone and start the season with a bang."

Sweet led Ebbw last season while flanker Kynes was sidelined by a foot injury and his permanent appointment was a no-brainer for head coach Greg Woods.

"I've got big boots to fill after playing under Damien Hudd and Ronny," said Sweet. "Ronny was unlucky last season, I was privileged to take over the captaincy and it's a great honour to get the armband from the start of the season."

The lock has a dual role with Ebbw, leading from the front on the pitch and helping off it as forwards coach.

The 30-year-old's speciality is the lineout but Sweet has seen a change at the club with less emphasis on the grunt up front.

"We've moved slightly away from what Ebbw used to be, the driving lineout etcetera, and we want to try and play a more expansive game," he said.

"With Lewis Roberts working hard with our backs over the summer, I'd like to think that will show this season.

"But we are still a Gwent club and when it gets nitty-gritty we don't mind putting our heads down. You still see that part of our game."

Ebbw, like Newport, are without a number of their young Dragons because of the Celtic Cup.